Entertainment Celebrity Billionaire breakups: The iffy future of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation

Billionaire breakups: The iffy future of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation

Bill and Melinda Gates high-profile divorces
Bill and Melinda Gates could join the billionaire breakup club, alongside Jeff Bezos and Jocelyn 'Catwoman' Wildenstein. Photo: Getty / TND
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Microsoft moguls and soon-to-be exes Bill and Melinda Gates reportedly agreed how to divide their property and assets before announcing their shock divorce, US media are reporting.

The billionaire couple, who have been married for 27 years, did not sign a pre-nuptial agreement before their wedding in 1994.

But it’s reported they signed a ‘separation contract’ before publicly revealing their marriage was over.

Following the Gates’ shock split, announced via Twitter on Tuesday, speculation has swirled about the status of their profitable joint foundation.

Created more than 20 years ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated close to $US53.8 billion ($69.5 billon) and is credited as one of the most important charities in the world.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the couple said they were committed to co-running the foundation and would not be restructuring.

“Bill and Melinda will remain co-chairs and trustees of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” the spokesperson said.

“No changes to their roles or the organisation are planned. They will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues, and set the organisation’s overall direction.”

The foundation has a broad focus, and has given grants to a diverse range of causes, including gender equality programs, climate change, economic development, education initiatives and global health and vaccines.

Despite the philanthropic work of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation (including the $US1.75 billion donated to coronavirus relief) the organisation has been criticised recently for encouraging Oxford University to monetise its COVID-19 vaccine.

Oxford University initially promised to deliver an open-source vaccine that could have been reproduced by anyone, including developing countries, with the facilities to do so.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation instead encouraged Oxford to partner with AstraZeneca, giving it sole rights without a commitment to keep the vaccine affordable.

Microsoft marriage

Gates, 65, co-founded Microsoft in 1975 and is the world’s fourth richest person with an estimated net worth of $US129.9 billion ($167.8 billion).

He met Ms Gates, who is worth $US70 billion ($90 billion), when she beat him at a maths game at a work dinner while she was a manager at Microsoft.

They wed in 1994 in Hawaii and have three children.

The couple have since stepped back from Microsoft to focus on their philanthropic endeavours.

Jennifer Gates, their eldest daughter, said the divorce would be a “challenging stretch of time”.

The 25-year-old on Instagram requested privacy as the family “navigate the next phases of our lives”.

Photo: Instagram/jenniferkgates

Details about how the couple intend to split their wealth remain scarce, but reports indicate Ms Gates does not intend to seek spousal support.

When you’re dealing with dividing that sort of money, things can get a bit touchy.

If the pair and their attorneys are looking for advice from someone who has been there before, they needn’t look far.

Here’s a couple of exxy exes from divorces past.

Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos 

Fellow Seattle billionaire divorcees, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos hold the title for the world’s most expensive divorce.

Bezos, who founded Amazon and is the world’s richest man, paid his wife of nearly 26 years $US38 billion ($49 billion) in 2019.

Keeping a 4 per cent stake in Amazon, MacKenzie Scott has remarried a private school teacher, and focuses on philanthropy.

Alec and Jocelyn Wildenstein 

The late Alec Wildenstein, an American businessman, art dealer and heir to one of the richest families in the art world, inherited much of his $US10 billion ($12.9 billion) fortune from his father.

Jocelyn Wildenstein is known nowadays for her plastic surgery. Photo: Getty

He also inherited what was thought to be the world’s largest private collection of major artworks.

He met wife, Swiss-born New York City socialite Jocelyn Wildenstein on safari in Kenya in 1977. Throughout their marriage, it’s rumoured Ms Wildenstein’s extreme and ongoing plastic surgery was part of a bid to please her “cat-loving husband”.

During their high-profile divorce proceedings in the late 1990s, details emerged surrounding Ms Wildenstein’s wild, $US1 million a month spending habits.

Wildenstein died in 2008 from cancer, and his now ex-wife has since filed for bankruptcy.

Rupert and Anna Murdoch 

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s split with ex-wife Anna also cost him a pretty penny.

The pair divorced in 1999 after 32 years of marriage and three children, and Murdoch was ordered to pay his former spouse $US1.7 billion ($2.1 billion) in the settlement.

Just 17 days later, Murdoch married Wendi Deng, who was nearly 40 years his junior.

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